Jul 25, 2013
Sometimes, I question my sanity. For someone who grew up near the equator with the benefits of fans and air-conditioning everywhere, a three-hour walk in the middle of the day is simply unthinkable. However, plant me long enough in Europe (especially after a very long and cold winter, followed by a very wet and chilly spring) and what do you know, I cheerfully agreed to walk from Firá to Oia under the scorching Santorinian afternoon sun.
The walk actually took longer than three hours. Whoever who wrote this little snippet of information on Wikitravel must have either just copied it from somewhere and not did the walk, or used to doing a lot of walking on a hot day, or forgotten to add a little addendum that this is the time required if starting from the cable car station in Firá. If you’re starting near the bus station and/or plan to do a lot of photo stops, it’s best to add another hour or so. (Note: I am no couch potato and normally walk a good bit in Paris.)
Frédéric and I arrived into Fira later than we’ve expected, after losing considerable amount of time in the morning hunting for a volcanic beach north of Oia. Since we have four days in Santorini, we figured we could come back to see Fira another time, and should just get on with our planned walk between the capital of Santorini and our cave studio in Oia.
We started our walk after a visit to the Orthodox cathedral that is steps away from the Prehistoric Museum. We leisurely strolled past the shopping district, heading north, and hoped we were on the right path. (Yes, we had notions of what to do but didn’t quite do the research to know exactly how we were going to execute it /whistles) Along the way, we took in the view of the caldera, and also scored ourselves some ice cream. Sadly, these ice cream that we’ve bought tasted far too artificial for our liking… Still, on a day like this, it offered a cooling reprieve.
The shopping path of Fira merge seamlessly to the cliff-side path of Firostefani, a village mere 10 minutes walk away after the cable car station. From here, one can truly appreciate the views of Fira and Imerovigli, the two villages that flank Firostefani in a step-like manner, had you have a chance to gaze northward from other more southerly viewpoints of the island, such as Prophet Elias Monastery. From Firostefani, we moved along towards Imerovigli, the highest village on the cliffs overlooking the caldera and situated just over a kilometer away.
Rather curiously, we spotted a ruin on a steep rock to the left of Imerovigli. I later learned that this is Skaros, an ancient settlement that once thrived – it was the capital of Santorini! – and governed from a castle that was built by Giacomo Barozzi (name sounds familiar?) after he was given Santorini by the Duke of Naxos, Marco Sanudo. Unfortunately, damages from multiple earthquakes and volcanic eruptions rendered it abandoned in the 18th century and by early 19th century, it was completely uninhabited.
While the first part of the walk between the three villages passed by very pleasantly with plenty to see, the second part is a little more stark with some rough edges. A good eight kilometers stretched between Imerovigli and Oia, and we had also been warned that the conditions of the path is not always tip-top. Sure enough, we found ourselves walking up- and down-hill at different points, at times on well-paved paths and roads, other times on loose gravels and hot volcanic rocks! Perhaps wearing a pair of open-toed sandals wasn’t the most sensible thing I could do…
However, we always have the breathtaking view of the caldera to keep us motivated and happy to move forward to the next vantage point. We passed by several more isolated churches that were closed, usually privately owned and opened only on specific occassion. At one small stretch though, it seemed the cliff-side path simply trailed off and we found ourselves on the windy main road (eeek!) that is really not meant for anyone to walk along its shoulders. Luckily, we managed to rejoin the right path quickly thereafter.
This second part of the walk was also a lot less busy, and we encountered only a handful few walkers along the way – one guy and a couple who did the walk in the opposite direction, and three couples also heading towards Oia. The two couple of walkers who went past us were in a bit of a hurry, and I suspect they were trying to leg it to Oia in time for sunset watching. They didn’t even pause to take in the natural beauty surrounding us at that time, which we thought was defeating the purpose of doing the walk in the first place.
At the Black Mountain (the peak just before ascending to Oia) we had the view of practically the entire Santorini before our eyes, along with Thirassia across the caldera. It was such a contrast too that we stood high up on caldera-facing cliff and we could see the flat lowland on the east of the island, not to mention the highest peak near Pyrgos where Phophet Elias monastery stands.
As predicted, we took our time and so we didn’t get back in time to head to the Goula (the castle in Oia) for the infamous sunset of Santorini. We caught up with that on a different evening. Nonetheless, from wherever we were on approaching Oia, bold flaming colours streaked across the sky before eventually blended into softer shades of lilac and vermilion.
Despite the long walk, Frédéric was prepared to do another round of it in reverse order, from Oia to Firá, as he couldn’t get over just how beautiful the journey had been. However, we still had so much more to do around Santorini and couldn’t quite afford to set aside another 3-4 hours without sacrificing something else. It was a tough choice, eventually made easy with the promise of many more interesting excursions to come.
Day-walk: Firá to Oia: full photoset on Flickr
All posts in this series:
Greece: Postcards: Sunset in Oia
Greece: Chóra, Hora or Náxos Town? | Flickr Photoset
Greece: The Venetian Museum of Náxos | Flickr Photoset
Greece: An afternoon walk from Firá to Oia | Flickr Photoset
Greece: Caldera, volcano and hot spring | Flickr Photoset
Greece: Island time(table), Santorini edition
Greece: Postcards: Blue in Oia
Greece: Postcards: The idyllic village of Oia | Flickr Photoset
Greece: Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’
Greece: Touring southern Santorini | Flickr Photoset
Greece: Postcards: Athens and the Acropolis | Flickr Photoset